Skepticism amongst the psychotic

Browsing through Google News for bits on mormons has taught me that you never know what crazy stuff is going on out there. This morning, I came across this little tidbit about a renegade plot to raise up assassins to kill the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Perhaps the plotters were frustrated with the institutional framework for overthrow that Nate Oman discusses elsewhere.

The thing that struck me about these poor creatures is the way they’ve been interrogated by the government and put on the stand to testify against their prophet. Their responses show the shattered mind of people that have been reprogrammed. At the same time, I wonder how mormons would have testified on the stand during the days of polygamy prosecutions — or for that matter, how would we testify on the stand about the church we currently belong to? Think of this interchange, from the article:

[plot witness Dawn] Godman said that, long after her arrest, she believed that Glenn Taylor Helzer, “working with the angels,” would free her to continue God’s work.

“My breaking away from Taylor Helzer has been a continuous process for the last four years,” she said. “It’s gone back and forth. It’s been a struggle.”

Prosecutor Harold Jewett asked Godman if she still thought Glenn Taylor Helzer was a prophet.

“You’re still not sure, are you?” he said.

She responded, “At times, no.”

I believe quite firmly that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet; were I to bear my testimony, I’d say that I know he is a prophet. But what would I say were I not bearing testimony, but giving it in court? Objective standards of witnessing and proof seem inapplicable to a church-based ‘testimony.’ What would you say on the stand?


  1. Dang, Steve. You beat me to the punch. What’s strange is that I’ve been reading about this crime/trial for awhile and it never registered with me that this guy was ex-LDS. I guess the San Francisco Chronicle is less biased than I thought [i.e. less quick to point out any time someone has done something very wrong that he/she is or was a member].

  2. I guess this ends up sounding pretty similar to the old “mormon ‘I know’ vs. real-world ‘I know'” debate, which is kind of disappointing. What was more interesting, and personal to me is how the former member of this death-cult brand of mormonism feels about her prophet.

  3. Sounds a lot like Under the Banner of Heaven by the Sea. Of course, it sounds a lot like Charles Manson too, right down to the celebrity connection. Helter Skelter, Seven Diamonds Plus One, Transform America–these people all have big plans. They’re ambitious, aren’t they?

    It’s nice that local LDS officials get around to excommunicating these aspiring cult murderers before they consummate their initial forays into prophetic homicide. Depending on your orientation, that is evidence of divine inspiration on the part of local leaders or, alternatively, it suggests these people lose touch with reality in a comprehensive and observable way years before they start acting on their misconceptions.

    Of course, there are always a few poor innocents with underdeveloped powers of reality testing who don’t catch on and fall “under the spell” of these walking time bombs. Of course, reality testing is a controversial topic in Mormondom. Let’s stick with prophetic homicide, something we can all agree on.

  4. That’s right. We can all agree that prophetic homicide is something the Church does not currently condone.

  5. This reminds me of how fascinated I was a few years back by the testimonies of the members of the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Last Days, the break-away church started in Manti. The testimonies were posted on the Internet, with pictures. The people in the pictures look like people I’ve known my whole life. Most are lifelong members, and they speak in 100% Mormon-speak about their testimonies and spiritual experiences. Do they feel differently about Harmston than you feel about Hinckley? Can the devil really masquerade as the “burning in the bosom” that these folks had come to know so well from church, missions, etc.? The church needs a plausible way to explain this stuff IMO.

    For anyone curious, here are links to a list of the testimonies, and a representative example of one. The original site is no longer up (God asked them to take it down), so they are mirrored on a Christian site: